Easing Covid curbs: Live music, theatre, indoor sports could return within fortnight

Stadium crowds of 30-50% capacity may also be allowed under proposals to be discussed

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin is pushing again for an easing of restrictions on live music, it is understood. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin is pushing again for an easing of restrictions on live music, it is understood. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

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An easing of restrictions on live music gigs and theatres could happen within the next two weeks under proposals to be discussed by senior Ministers on Monday.

A reopening of indoor sports such as boxing and badminton as well as increased attendances in stadiums is also on the table for September.

The Government’s roadmap for lifting the remaining Covid-19 restrictions is this week expected to ease the limit of 500 people who can attend outdoor events, as well as allowing a return to full capacity on public transport from Wednesday, and a return of workers to offices in September.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Culture Catherine Martin will meet representatives of the live entertainment industry on Monday. The Irish Times understands Ms Martin is pushing again for an easing of restrictions on live music, and for audiences of more than 50 to be allowed in theatres within the first two weeks of September. The use of vaccine certificates is proposed as a way to allow this to happen.

Minister of State for sport Jack Chambers has been working on proposals that will see an end to the system of pilot sports matches to one where audiences could be phased back starting with stadium capacities of 30-50 per cent.

‘Vital supports’

Ahead of Monday’s meeting the Events Industry Alliance (EIA) has asked the Government to ensure an early September reopening date is implemented for fully vaccinated people to attend full capacity indoor and outdoor events.

It also wants to ensure “vital industry business and workers supports remain in place and are extended until June 2022 to help allow the sector recover”.

Events promoter Justin Green, a member of the EIA, said this should include a sector-specific extension of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme and grants to restart the sector. He said the live entertainment industry had suffered more than any other sector. “We’ve been in deep-freeze for 18 months and it will take time to thaw and recover,” he added.

Ms Martin’s department said “clarity on the path back to viable live performance” will be provided to the sector when the roadmap for lifting restrictions is announced on Tuesday and until then there can be no confirmation on how the EIA’s requests will be answered.

Meanwhile, the fate of this year’s Electric Picnic remains unresolved after hopes were raised last week that it could go ahead for fully vaccinated people. The Department of Culture said: “There have been contacts between the department and the promoters of Electric Picnic over the weekend and these are ongoing.”

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